Colored diamonds are referred to as 'fancy' diamonds, and can exhibit almost any color in the rainbow. The color of a diamond is actually a result of impurities or deformities in a diamond’s chemical makeup, with specific impurities resulting in specific colors.
The most valuable diamonds are the deepest, most saturated in color, and most even in tone. Colored diamonds are graded by GIA by a specific range that reflects the intensity of color exhibited. This scale includes a total of nine categories: faint (least valuable), very light, light, fancy light, fancy, fancy dark, fancy intense, fancy deep and fancy vivid (the rarest and most expensive).
12 colors of Fancy Diamonds, image courtesy Leibish.com
The value of fancy colored diamonds varies, but as a general rule, we can rank them from least valuable or expensive to most valuable expensive as follows:
Violet Diamonds and Orange Diamonds
Interestingly, the most common shapes in colorless diamonds are the least common in fancy colored diamonds. The most common diamond shapes employed when cutting fancy colored diamonds are cushion and radiant shapes. This is because they show off colors the best, whereas the ever popular round, princess, and oval shapes do a poorer job displaying color.
As far as the 4 c's of diamond grading go -- fancy colors mostly follow the same rules as colorless diamonds, with several exceptions. Black and white fancies are almost never found in clarity grades above I1, so they get a bit of a pass in this area. Similarly, Champagnes appear in the SI range, but rarely higher, so the same applies to them. Pink diamonds always fluoresce as part of their chemical makeup, so they also get a pass in this department. In addition to the cut preferences described above -- most fancy colors will be solidly in the 'good' categories, and will not be ideal cut or 'excellent', as these truly only apply to colorless stones. Colored fancy stones will be cut to exhibit their color as a priority, so will thus never go 'above' a 'good' ranking, although that should not be seen as a negative characteristic, but merely a feature.
Benefits of a Fancy Colored Diamond Engagement Ring
- Darker colors tend to hide their inclusions nicely. What this means for you: a cheaper diamond by settling a little on on the clarity grading. While colorless diamonds must be an SI1 or better to not display imperfections, many fancy colors can 'face up' nicely or be 'eye clean' at an I1.
- Paler colors, particularly yellow, as well as anything in the brown, white and gray ranges, can be found affordably, at significantly less than colorless diamonds of similar sizes.
- Infintely unique: Fancy colors are more atypical, more rare, and come in a total of 230 unique color combinations when one considers intensity, hue, and secondary colors or 'modifiers'. When choosing a fancy color, rest assured your ring will always stand out in a crowd.
- A best choice for a 'colored' engagement ring stone: Diamonds are harder than any other available gemstone. Although Sapphires come in all colors (and Moissanites are becoming available in more and more colors) -- diamonds are still harder, making them the most durable long term option.
- Good investment value: Natural Colored Diamonds have a history of steady appreciation, and are less common than colorless varieties (for every carat of colored stones, 10,000 carats of colorless diamonds are mined). In 2008, when gold dropped 30% and colorless diamonds fell 20%, natural fancy color diamonds actually experienced a small rise of 3-4% in appreciation. Furthermore, in the past 30 years, fancy color diamonds have not depreciated in value once.
*There are other notable 'fancy' colored diamonds that remain uncategorized here, mostly due to rarity and lack of familiarity and availability, making them lack ease of marketability. These include fancy gray diamonds, fancy white diamonds, fancy black diamonds, and chameleon diamonds.
Fancy white and black diamonds, image courtesy GIA.com
*Gray diamonds are gaining in popularity, however are very rare and can be difficult to source. They are currently valued low because of their lack of popularity, ranking somewhere between Champagne and Yellow diamonds, but their value will likely increase over time.
*Even more rare, the chameleon exists yet almost never comes to market. Chameleon diamonds have an interesting novelty factor because they change color when exposed to extreme heat or UV light.
*Fancy white diamonds tend to have an opalescence to them. They are typically part of a subset of particularly rare diamond types (IaB). They are believed to be mostly sublithospheric in origin, having formed more than 250 km below Earth's surface. Fancy white diamonds, like black diamonds, are mostly I3 or worse as far as clarity goes, but that is a distinct feature of the gem. Sometimes fancy white diamonds are referred to as 'milky diamonds'. They have remained fairly unknown until recent years, but are slowly growing in popularity.